Mark Pitman reports on a surprise win for Carmarthen Town over Port Talbot Town in the Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League. Gareth Elms provides the photo’s.
The Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League is a close-knit affair and each week a number of players and managers find themselves in action against their former employers. This popular South Wales fixture between Carmarthen Town and Port Talbot Town offered just that expected sub-plot as visiting boss Mark Jones brought his Port Talbot Town side to the club that sacked him four years before. Joining Jones in his re-acquaintance with Richmond Park was substitute Sacha Walters following his summer switch between the two clubs, but the night would belong to a former Port Talbot Town player in the home squad who would make a much bigger impression on the game than he did during his brief time at his opponents.
Nicky Palmer signed for Port Talbot Town just over twelve months ago as the club prepared to compete in the UEFA Europa League. Palmer was signed as an experienced campaigner from Carmarthen but started on the bench for his new club in their opening European game at Finnish side TPS Turku. Palmer made the starting eleven for the return leg however and almost scored inside the opening few minutes before the side slipped to a convincing 4-0 defeat. This brief foray into Europe would prove to Palmer’s only appearance for the club and he eventually returned to Richmond Park having been unable to earn himself a place in Mark Jones side. The visit of Port Talbot Town would however offer Palmer the chance to avenge his lack of opportunity, and the form of Port Talbot Town at Carmarthen over the last few seasons would suggest he had every chance of achieving just that.
Carmarthen Town 2-0 Port Talbot Town – Corbett Sports Welsh Premier League – Friday 26th August 2011
With only one victory at Richmond Park since 2003, Port Talbot did not arrive statistically confident of building on their impressive victory over The New Saints the weekend before, and the absence of regular goalkeeper Kristian Rogers only added to the concern. The statistics of recent season results did not prevent the travelling supporters from making the journey in numbers however and a now-expected vociferous welcome echoed around the quiet, rural town as the two sides entered the field. A police presence, a novelty in the Welsh Premier League, added to the Friday night attendance as the visiting ‘1901 Ultras’ welcomed striker Martin Rose back to the starting line-up after injury.
And it was Rose that would ask the early questions of the Carmarthen defence with a couple of powerful runs forward in the early exchanges. Carmarthen manager Tomi Morgan had opted for size and strength in his backline to combat the influence of Rose and strike-partner Cortez Belle by bringing Lee Bevan back into his side, but Port Talbot Town forced the early possession, although they could only create one clear-cut chance on goal while their defence remained untroubled at the other end.
This would change on 19 minutes however as Carmarthen pushed forward with a rare counter-attack through Steffan Williams. The winger then cut the ball back across the Port Talbot Town area and found Nicky Palmer who slotted the ball past goalkeeper David Burnett to hand his side the lead. It was a satisfying strike for Palmer having failed to make the grade at Port Talbot Town the season before but the loudest shouts came from the visitors as the debate into how they slipped behind after dominating the early exchanges began.
Port Talbot continued to push forward from the re-start. Defender Paul Cochlin, a recent summer-signing, continued to offer a presence in attack from set-pieces that had been missing from the side for too long, while Lee John was allowed space and time to take on his opposite number on the left. Carmarthen goalkeeper Mike Lewis remained untroubled however as his defence stood firm and Port Talbot struggled with their final ball. The half-time whistle of referee Brian James would bring as much relief to Carmarthen as it did in adding to the frustrations of the visitors.
A pretty dire second-half followed as Carmarthen sat on their lead and restricted to Port Talbot to a series of long-range efforts. The enthusiasm of the travelling support began to fade together with their sides chances of taking something from the match as the side continued to lose the ball cheaply in midfield. Substitutes Matthew Thompson, Chris Hartland and youngster Oliver Bowen were introduced in an attempt to add some quality, pace and work ethic to the side but their influence failed to shine as Carmarthen grew into their lead and began to ask questions at the other end.
With two minutes remaining, Cledan Davies added a second goal for Carmarthen to cue celebrations of the sides now-inevitable first win of the season. The crowd began to drift as the usual tranquillity of the town returned and referee James brought the game to an end minutes later. Port Talbot Town manager Mark Jones would later describe the night in his post-match interview as “the most disappointing night I’ve had in 10 years in the Welsh Premier.” Many of the travelling fans would agree.
With the good work of defeating The New Saints the weekend before now undone, Jones must reflect on yet another defeat for his side at Richmond Park and work out how to lift his side from it, while opposite number Tomi Morgan can use the result as a catalyst for his side to kick on with their season after a slow start. Port Talbot Town may have enjoyed the better possession but Carmarthen enjoyed the far better result, and with the Welsh Premier League set for its most competitive season ever, it is results that inevitably matter.
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